Cambridge's Best Bridges

They span our lives. They span boundaries. They span eternity.

I am, of course, talking about bridges. The bridge: an intrinsic part of Cambridge. And so that is why I have taken it upon myself to give you what you truly want, to feed that thus far unrealised hunger, to scratch that ever-present itch. I present an arbitrary review of a few of Cambridge’s bridges. A perfect marriage, you might say, between two of the most mainstream trends: reviews and bridges. Using a particularly truss-worthy and scientific ranking system, we may very well find the best bridge in Cambridge – which is definitely an important and worthwhile thing to find out. But I’ll not delay a moment longer as I know the suspension is probably too much to bear.

We shall start our journey with the Queens’ Mathematical Bridge, or the Wooden Bridge as it’s officially and more creatively called. However, it’s maybe this particularly catchy name that captures the bridge’s true essence. Underwhelming. Because while it may masquerade as a great mathematical monument, the tale that Isaac Newton originally built it without any nuts or bolts is sadly a myth – and, as if to add insult to injury, the bolts are particularly noticeable. While the timbers are arranged in a series of tangents that describe the arc of the bridge, with radial members to tie the tangents together and triangulate the structure*, it’s just not that impressive to be honest. Plus, I didn’t really like the matting.

Bridge Rating: 4.2 / Some very impressive maths

(* Ref. That reliable fount of knowledge, Wikipedia)

Next, was the King’s College Bridge. A rather run-of-the-bridge type bridge that does its job in a solid, well- intentioned way but does little else. Its architectural design is hardly extravagant (as unusual as that may be for King’s) and while I would include some zany story about its past, there is disappointingly little. However, what it lacks in style and history, it more than makes up for in cows. Some may argue that cows are not a valid part of a bridge. And they would probably have a point there.

Bridge Rating: 6.6 / Completely relevant farmyard animals

The Bridge of Sighs shares its name with a bridge in Venice and another in Oxford – although the latter doesn’t even cross water so we won’t consider that any further. The bridge is also the poster child of Cambridge’s bridges, yet it is unlike any of the others already covered in this article in that it is itself covered. This adds to the general Hogwarts ambiance (something that, I know, you’ll be lacking in Cambridge) and makes a very pleasant bridge-crossing experience. This bridge does,

however, question what we truly mean by a ‘bridge’ – could this instead be considered a room, a corridor, a passage? Does it suggest some intrinsic problem within a language that not merely labels something as a ‘bridge’ but places that ‘bridge’ at the forefront of the label when it is clearly a far more complex situation? And might ‘sighs’ itself also contain a comment about this very complexity? *Sigh* In other news, apparently students have dangled a car below the bridge on two separate occasions – oh, those crazy Cambridge antics.

Bridge Rating: 8.1 / The elusive liminality between exterior and interior, between bridge and passage, between name and meaning

Having been denied access to Clare on the first attempt (it’s almost as if they don’t want their bridge to feature in this journalistic masterpiece...), I shall attempt to maintain my professional impartiality for the course of this review. The Clare College Bridge was built in 1640, making it the oldest of Cambridge’s current bridges, yet despite its age it still maintains its looks. Like the Mathematical Bridge, it also has some of its own mythology surrounding an incomplete globe on the south side of the bridge. Some say that a segment was taken by a builder who was not paid in full, others that it was taken by a college fellow as a part of a bet while yet more say that the globe was left incomplete to avoid paying a ‘bridge tax’. In reality, it probably just fell into the river due to weathering after a repair job. Yeah, disappointing. Other than that, it’s a pretty well rounded bridge.

Bridge Rating: 8.15 / Underwhelming mythology

The Trinity College Bridge takes the well-functioning principle of the King’s Bridge and adds some much-needed aesthetic delight. The three graceful arches, which curve above the water, pleasingly compliment the surrounding views of Trinity. That being said, the somewhat scruffy tarmac and invasive moss would imply some definite maintenance is needed. I did also note that it is quite a flat bridge, and while I appreciate this may verge into personal indulgence, I do prefer a more defined arc to my bridges.

Bridge Rating: 7.3 / Some good old- fashioned, good old-fashioned design

I would have loved to include every bridge in this review, yet sadly the article had to be abridged. Maybe in the future we could have an ultimate review – but I suppose, we’ll just have to cross that bridge if we come to it. However, I did promise you that we would find the best bridge in Cambridge and I will keep that promise because, while I did see many a valiant bridge over the course of this mammoth odyssey, there is one that arches above the rest. The greatest bridge of them all. The bridge that connects us all. That bridge is Cambridge. (Or, maybe Clare or something, I quite liked that one...)